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Canada’s Official Policy on Burma

Canada supports democratic reform in Burma while at the same time it allows Canadian companies to trade and invest in partnership with this country’s military dictatorship.

In 1988, Canada cut off all overseas aid to Burma along with many other Western countries in condemnation of the August 8, 1988 (8.8.88) massacre in which the military gunned down thousands of unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators in the streets.

From 1988 to 1997, Canada imposed various condemnatory measures against the military regime, but still held that constructive engagement was the best way to democratize the country. However, after years of unsuccessful attempts to "constructively engage" Burma’s military rulers, the Canadian government decided in 1997 to introduce limited punitive measures or Selective Economic Measures, against Burma.

Limited Measures Ineffective

"Limited" is the operative word. The more accurate word would be "voluntary". It means that, unless Burma starts a major war in Southeast Asia, Canadian companies can do as much business as they want with the country’s military rulers.

And Canadian companies are indeed taking advantage of this weak policy. Since the measures were imposed in 1997, imports to Canada from Burma have more than tripled, now at over $60 million. Telecommunications giant Nortel Networks (which has sold cellular telephone technology through its subsidiary Telrad, to a regime which outlaws fax machines), TransCanada Pipelines (which helped build a controversial gas pipeline whose preparation involved forced relocations of villagers as well as forced labour), and Ivanhoe Mines (whose CEO, Robert Friedland, who is wanted by the US Environmental Protection Agency for past transgressions.  Tthese are just a few of the Canadian firms who are doing business with a regime whose human rights abuses include summary execution, torture, rape and arbitrary imprisonment.

Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi is the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) which won 82% of the votes in the 1990 elections. She and her party have been urging foreign countries for years not to do business with the Burmese military regime. She says "no amount of aid or investment will benefit our people. Profits from business enterprises will merely go towards enriching a small, already very privileged elite."

According to the Sunday Times of London, most countries are taking heed of Suu Kyi’s pleas. Foreign investment in Burma has fallen from US$777.4 million to US $429.5 million in 1999 alone. Unfortunately, Canadian companies are responsible for part of that $429.5 million.

List of Canadian Government’s Current Measures

In the meantime, write your MP and tell them the list isn’t long enough. We need tougher measures!


If you would like more information this issue, please

Press Releases/Statements and News

Burma Parliamentary delegation expected in Canada

CFOB statement on latest communal violence in Burma

What more can Canada do in Burma? - Tin Maung Htoo

Burma’s Kachin seek Canadian support

Staying true for human rights for all - Rebecca Wolsak

Why Inter Pares is wrong on Burma - Tin Maunng Htoo

CFOB concerned with Kachin conflicts in northern Burma

CFOB 2012 Annual Report released!

Statement on CFOB AGM on Dec. 15, 2012

Burmese Civil Society Organizations Dismayed by Inter Pares

CFOB AGM on Dec. 15 in Toronto

Minister Jason Kenney to Meet with Prominent Buddhist Monk

CFOB in Crisis with Rohingya in Burma

Baird Concerned about Renewed Violence in Rekhine State

Burmese Foreign Minister Queitly Visited to Canada

CFOB Policy Statement: “Navigating the thaw: Burma-Canada Relations in 2012 and beyond”

Over 70 Canadians and Burmese activists cleared from 'Blacklist'

Revised: Canada Calls for Peaceful Solution in Arakan state of Burma

Advocating humanitarian assistance to Kachin IDPs in Burma

Parliamentary Testimony with Aung Din (USCB)

Parliamentary Testimony with Tin Maung Htoo (CFOB)

Minister Kenney Surprises Burmese Community with Announcement

Minister Jason Kenney to meet with Burmese community leaders in Toronto

Policy Consultation on Burma

Burma Day - Celebrating 20th of CFOB

Long-time Burma supporter Brian John passed away

CFOB pleased by prisoners release but more reform needed

CFOB Welcomes Fine For Firm That Illegally Exported Plane to Burma

CFOB Welcomes U.S Secretary of States Visit to Burma

CFOB Saddend by the Loss of Jack Layton

Cross Canada bike ride for Burma reaching to final destination

Ivanhoe received US$103 million from Burma's copper mines

Burmese President accepts credentials of Canadian Ambassador to Burma

Aung San Suu Kyi supports UN commission of inquiry on Burma

Transfer of Ivanhoe's Burmese assets to weapons firm must be probed

Canada Sends Best Wishes to Aung San Suu Kyi on Her Birthday

66th Birthday Events of Aung San Suu Kyi in Canada

Suu Kyi to be honored on Canada Day in Côte Saint-Luc

Cross-Canada Bike Ride for Burma

Suu Kyi addresses to Conference on ‘Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict’

New Burmese Ambassador to Canada: a messenger for new regime in Burma?

Media coverage on detained Canadian in Burma

Suu Kyi to deliver video message at Carleton University

Carleton University to Honour Aung San Suu Kyi

Canada to Support 'Commission of Inquiry' on Burma's rights violations

Canada to Renew humanitarian support

Canada to welcome additional 1,300 Karen Refugees from Thai-Burma Border

CFOB Welcomes Opposition Party Calling for Economic Sanctions

Two events today in Toronto and Vancouver to mark DSSAK Day

CFOB applauds government and Parliament for granting Honorary Citizenship for Suu Kyi, and urges more action on Burma

CFOB welcomes throne speech to honor Suu Kyi with Honorary Citizenship

Canada Welcomes Statement by the United Nations Security Council on Burma

More news...

Annual Reports

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2009 Annual Report

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2005 Annual Report


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